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Groups Part 2: Group Activities and Assignments in Canvas

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This article is for faculty who use Group assignments in Canvas. To learn how to create groups in a course, view the first article in this series: Creating Groups in Canvas.

1. View Group Sets and Groups

1.1. View Group Sets and Groups (Faculty)

In the article Creating Groups in Canvas, we learned how to create group sets and groups in a Canvas course. Once the groups are created, faculty and students can find the groups by going to the People link in the Course Navigation Menu.

Image of Course Navigation Menu and People link selected

Click on a group set's tab to see this set's groups.

Image with Group 1, Group 1, Group 3 created and the + sign by a student's name highlighted

Groups for this group set will appear below. To view the students in a group, click on the arrow at the left of the group name.

Image of Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3 with the arrow on the left of Group 1 highlighted

Students can access groups in three ways. They can use the course People link, the course Home page, or the global Groups tab. View this Canvas Community video: Groups Overview (Students) to learn about what students experience when they participate in groups.

2. Viewing Group Home Pages

Students cannot visit other groups' pages unless they are able to select their group. Faculty will be able to view all course groups' home pages. To do so, (1) go to People and (2) choose a group set. (3) Then click on the three-dot kebab menu to the right of a group.

People page with the group set Group assignment 1 highlighted

Clicking on the three-dot menu will open a small menu with the option to Visit Group Homepage. Click on this button to view what your students have created.

Group set page with the three dot menu next to group 1 open and Visit the dropdown option toGroup Homepage highlighted

Group members can make group announcements, create Canvas pages that other group members can see, create and use group discussion threads, share files, meet virtually using BigBlueButton, and work collaboratively on Google files. Once inside a student group, faculty can select the Switch Group dropdown menu to easily view and build content in other groups.

Image of a group (in this example: Group 1) home page with links for announcements, pages, people, discussions, files, bigbluebutton, collaborations and the message Recent Activity in Group 1 No Recent Messages: You don't have any messages to show in your stream yet. Once you begin participating in your courses you'll see this stream fill up with messages from discussions, grading updates, private messages between you and other users, etc.

Announcements made on a group homepage will not appear on the course home page.

For faculty who want to provide groups with course materials for projects in student group Files areas, faculty must upload files into each student group files area from their desktops, or download files contained in your course navigation Files area accessible via your course homepage then upload them into each student group Files area. Each student group Files and Pages link is exclusive to each group area. Content that students create and upload into their groups will not be stored in your course's files and pages course navigation areas.

View below of an empty student group Files area from the faculty perspective.

View below from the faculty perspective of course Files area accessed from course navigation link.

Students will also be able to see both discussion topics that faculty assign by group and discussion topics that they and their peers create. In the example below, (1) "Group Project Planning?" was posted by a student, and (2) "Research methods for writing papers" was posted by faculty.

Image of a group's discussion page with two discussion topics highlighted

A student can click on the + Discussion button to start a new group discussion topic. Faculty can do this too for a group-specific topic but will use the Course Navigation Menu's Discussions link to create a group discussion with the same topic for each group. Learn how to assign a discussion topic to all groups in a course in the next section.

Image of a group's discussion page with the + Discussion button highlighted

Students can see each other's names but not their contact information. To plan with classmates, students can use the group home page discussion boards. They can also send messages to their group using the Canvas Inbox on the Global Navigation Menu.

3. Assign a Discussion Topic to All Groups

If you would like all of your students to discuss a topic in small groups, create a discussion and use the Group Discussion setting.

3.1. Create a Discussion Topic

Go to the Discussions link from the Course Navigation Menu.

Image of the course discussion page with the course navigation menu discussions link highlighted

Create a new discussion by clicking on the + Discussion button.

Image of a course discussion page with the + Discussion button highlighted

(1) Give the discussion topic a name and (2) write the prompt.

Image of the editing window to create a new discussion add the topic title and write the prompt in the rich content editor

3.2. Assign the Discussion to Groups

Assign this discussion topic to groups by checking the box next to This is a group discussion.

Image of the editor window for a new discussion with the option for Group Discussions and the box for This is a Group Discussion highlighted

Clicking this checkbox will change your options. Assign the discussion to a group set.

Image of the new discussion editor windown with This is a Group Discussion checked and the Group Set dropdown window highlighted

Learn how to create a group set in Part 1 of our series. You can also create a new group set when you create your discussion by selecting New Group Category, as shown below. Be sure to create groups within your group set before publishing the assignment, or the discussion will function as a whole-class discussion for students rather than a group discussion, and you will not be able to filter for individual replies.

If you have copied a group discussion from another Canvas course, the discussion will be assigned to the default group set, Project Groups. This group set is created without groups. Assign the discussion to a group set that has groups.

Image of This is a group discussion setting and the New Group Category button highlighted

Save and publish these settings to make the discussion available to all of the groups in a group set. Save if you are not ready to make the discussion viewable to your students.

Image of the Save and Publish button highlighted

3.3. View Student Replies

Once students reply to a topic, faculty can visit groups' respective homepages (see Section 2) or click on the groups icon in a discussion.

Image of a discussion prompt  with the groups icon at the top of the page highlighted and a dropdown box with Group 3, Group 1, and Group 2 listed below

After faculty clicks on the button for a group, the group's Discussions page will be displayed with replies from students in the group.

Image of a discussion topic as it appears to group 1 with the instructor's prompt and a reply from a student in Group 1

4. Create a Group Assignment

4.1. Create an Assignment

Faculty can ask students to submit assignments as a group. To create a group assignment, go to the Assignment link in the Course Navigation Menu.

Image of Course Navigation Menu with Assignments link highlighted

Click the red +Assignment button.

Image of Assignments page with the + Assignment button highlighted

4.2. Edit Assignment Details and Settings

(1) Give your new assignment a name and (2) add directions. (3) Add the number of points the assignment is worth and, if necessary, (4) change the assignment group (i.e. weighted category).

Image of assignment edit window with 1 assignment name 2 assignment description 3 assignment points and 4 assignment group

Select (1) the submission type. If necessary, (2) adjust the number of submission attempts. Then (3) check the box This is a group assignment.

Image assignment edit box 1 submission type 2 submission attempts 3 box for this is a group assignment highlighted

After you check the box for This is a group assignment, new options will appear. By default, if you enter a grade for  one student's group submission, that grade will appear for the other students in his or her group in the gradebook. If you wish to assign different grades for an assignment to students in the same group, select Assign Grades to Each student Individually.

Image assignment box this is a group assignment checked with assign grades to each student individually highlighted

It is necessary to choose a group set for the assignment. You can (1) use a group set that you created in People or (2) create a group set and its groups now by choosing New Group Category. If you choose New Group Category, you will follow the steps in section 1.2 of our first groups article.

Image assignment edit box group set and select category dropdown menu or new group category button

If you have copied a group discussion from another Canvas course, the discussion will be assigned to the default group set, Project Groups. This group set is created without groups. Assign the discussion to a group set that has groups.

Add your assignment's due date and availability dates. Save the assignment or Save & Publish the assignment if you are ready to make it available to students.

Image of assign to area with 1 due date 2 available from until dates

Add your new assignment to a module. Students will access this assignment from the Modules page or the Assignments page. Unlike group discussions, group assignments will not appear on group home pages. Learn more about adding an assignment to a module in this article: Setting up Your Canvas Course Layout with Modules.

5. Create a Collaboration for a Group

Students and faculty can create a Collaboration on a group's home page. These are Google files: Docs, Slides, or Sheets.

5.1. Choose a Collaboration Type

Note, the screenshot below was taken from a student's perspective. On a group's home pages, a student will click on Collaborations to see links to existing collaborations or to create a new collaboration.

Image of a group homepage with collaborations link highlighted

Note that the screenshot below was taken from the faculty perspective. Note the difference in views from the two screenshots. Faculty, in the view below, are able to select the Switch Group dropdown to quickly access different student groups. This group does not have any collaborations. To create one, a student (or teacher) will select + Collaboration.

Image of group homepage with +collaboration button highlighted

Google Apps are available to CSU East Bay students and faculty. Select Google Apps.

Image of + Collaboration dropdown with Google Apps highlighted

5.2. Authorize Your Account

You may be prompted to authorize your account. If you have already authorized Google Drive LTI by Canvas, skip to Section 5.3. Faculty should log in using their CSU East Bay accounts and students should log in using their Horizon CSU East Bay accounts. Select Authorize and follow the login instructions.

If Authorization has failed, check to make sure you aren't using Incognito or Private Browsing windows.

Some browsers may have stricter privacy settings than others, changing your settings to accept cross-site cookies may help.

Image of group homepage with Log In integration message and Authorize button highlighted

Select your CSU East Bay account.

Window to choose East Bay account and continue to LTI

Choose Allow.

Window to allow Google Drive LTI by Canvas access allow button highlighted

5.3. Choose a File Type

Choose the kind of file that you would like to use for your collaboration.

File creation page: Kind dropdown options 1 document 2 spreadshet 3 presentation

Name the document.  If needed, add a description.

You will not be able to create the file without giving it a name.

File name field and description highlighted

5.4. Add Collaborators

Click on the names of the group members who will edit this Google Apps file. Names of students who haven't been added will appear on the left side of the page and added members will appear on the right.

In the example below, Alex has already been added as a collaborator, so his name appears on the right side of the page. The students whose names are are on the left side of the page still need to be added.

People field with student names: to add on left and added on right

Select Submit to create the file.

file creation with submit button highlighted

Click on the name of the file.

Collaborations page with file name which is a link highlighted

The file will open in a new tab. Added members can edit this file. They may need to authorize their accounts too before they can access the file. Collaborators can do so by following the steps in Section 5.2.

Image of two tabs left: Canvas and Right New Google Slides File


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Previous Article Groups Part 1: Creating Groups in Canvas
Next Article Groups Part 3: Observing Group Activities in Canvas